Is Now the Time for a Rise in Medical Cannabis Use? – An insight from an industry leader
Updated: Nov 30, 2020
The grass is looking greener for the competitive landscape of the medical marijuana industry. Start-ups such as Avida Global are at the root of pioneering products that are revolutionising the budding industry. I had the opportunity to speak with David Kirby, the CEO of Avida Global (www.avidaglobal.com), a producer of medical marijuana with growing and extraction operations based in North East Columbia. David provided insights into a potentially unfamiliar and contemporarily significant industry; particularly within Western society due to rapid shifts in both the socio-political and health and medicines based regulatory climate.
The global cannabis market is rapidly growing. Some estimates indicate an industry value of $150 billion per annum, with forecasts predicting an overall value of $272 billion by 2028. It probably comes as no surprise the vast majority of this comes from illegal and unregulated sale and consumption, however, Grand View Research project the legal market at $73.6 billion by 2027 with 71% of this attributed to use by the medical sector in an increasing variety of treatments and applications.
Across the globe, the growing prevalence of cannabis as a palliative treatment for numerous chronic diseases has led to a noticeable worldwide expansion in the production of various strains of Cannabis. Kirby spoke on the competitive landscape within the industry mentioning the incumbent North American firms. Conversely, with the market space growing rapidly, a flood of new entrants is setting up production targeting new markets. Kirby compared the current industry climate to “the dot-com bubble” otherwise known as “the green rush” within this sector. As is the case with many start-ups though, most crash and burn due to financing issues and poor set-up for sustainable production of high-quality plants meaning these firms are an unattractive proposition for new investors looking to find a way into this burgeoning market.
There are many well-supported ventures in the industry so is there any room for smaller entrants such as Avida Global? To this question Kirby pointedly affirms that there is plenty of space for new participants in the industry who can differentiate on quality, this being very much the focus at Avida Global. “Growing conditions provide a huge and measurable difference in what we produce," Kirby said when explaining how they harvest the highest possible grade cannabis extract. He added, “the plants pick up anything in the ground, this affects the quality of the plant which is why we grow hydroponically in our innovative coconut-based substrate”.
The start-up has a wealth of knowledge and expertise behind their production process as well as the multi-million-pound investments they have raised to roll out commercial production by next year. The team is multi-disciplined bringing together a range of expert botanists, scientists, the UK’s leading parliamentarian on the subject of drugs (Lord Mancroft - Chairman) and many other specialists on the board of management and at their production hub in Columbia. Avida’s facility, situated close to the equator at the base of the Andes mountains in Columbia, provides perfect growing conditions to attain 5 to 6 harvests a year, which at full capacity will produce over 20 tonnes of the cannabis extract. The extract is sold to pharmaceutical companies who go on to make a variety of end-user products such as mouth sprays, tongue drops, e-cigarette liquids and many more.
(The first two of Avida Global’s football pitch-sized greenhouses at their facility in Columbia. The facility has the capacity for 30 greenhouses in total equalling 1.5 million square feet of production space).
The impact and power wielded by big pharma in lobbying US government is highly visible and this activity has had a significant impact upon producers of medical cannabis. The billions in investments these conglomerates have historically made into synthesised drugs, including opioids (that are now recognised as the cause behind many ills in US society) serves as a spur to medical cannabis investors. Producers alike, use this to treat ailments that scientists are now widely supportive of and could be remedied with medical cannabis with less deleterious effects including addiction.
What was in the past of little concern is now very much at the forefront for big pharma, especially as cannabis does not have the detrimental side effects that most synthetics do. When considering this, Kirby believes a Biden presidency will ease the route for the eventual positive legalisation of cannabis at a federal level. In the US, cannabis although fully legalised in many states, remains federally illegal, “we currently can’t import to the US as its federally illegal which seems crazy considering all the states that you can buy cannabis over the counter”. Regarding this legal position in the US, he says “it will start to open up under Joe Biden, and we will look to take advantage come 2022”.
In the UK in 2018 the home secretary, Sajid Javid, announced that medical products derived from cannabis were to be available on prescription for the treatment of conditions ranging from Alzheimer’s, anxiety, eating disorders, pain treatments and many more. However, since the imposition of this new regulation hardly any cannabis-based prescriptions have been written to patients of suffering these illnesses.
Kirby eluded to a genuine lack of awareness from GPs surrounding the medical applications of cannabis as to why this is the case, “doctors don’t get any training at all and some genuinely don’t know that it can be a homeopathic recipe when used properly”. Nevertheless, this is not a topic that can be ignored for long considering the material increase in the request of cannabis-based prescriptions due to the increasing spread of positive word-of-mouth and tuition by groups such a ‘The Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society’.
Whether you agree with it or not, the growing change in the societal perspective and the number of lobbying groups that are influencing cannabis policy means more markets are opening. Avida Global are perfectly situated to exploit this growing demand with enormous production capacity and genuine growth potential and this looks very exciting for the industry and roles within it.